It was not greeted with familiar smiles and gentle laughter today, it was blatantly ignored.
From behind the invisible wall, a woman’s shriek of frustration was punctuated by a door slam. The floor murmured with pacing feet, gradually growing louder, more demanding. The rest of the neighborhood appeared to be silent, save for the buzzing of a single hummingbird’s wings.
The feeder of nectar, which had been so caringly attended, was now all but useless to the small, energetic bird. It was full—its lone patron could never hope to exhaust its supply—but also contaminated with the refuge of autumn. Leaves and pine needles had been accumulating slowly, until the hummingbird was completely cut off from its source of nourishment.
A man’s voice, trying to coax but strained with its own irritation, bubbled up from inside the broken household. It grew louder, intertwining with a second, competing voice, until both broke off with exasperated shouts. The soft tones of the living room décor sharply contrasted the tension between the two lovers. Though they were both still, quietly brooding from opposite sides of the room, the atmosphere was continually poisoned by their festering thoughts.
Yet, the hummingbird stayed. Other, more peaceful homes also hosted hummingbirds, doing so with more extravagant displays or sweeter nectar. What this solitary hummingbird found here, and here alone, was what was precious in its memory. This bird had been hatched because of this feeder and raised on its nectar, so the hummingbird found no reason to leave after attaining adulthood. Other birds were capricious, fair-weather feeders, taking what was readily available or better looking, but this bird was loyal. It knew, from a history of dedication, that the feeder here was always full, unlike the feeders hosting entire swarms of birds. The feeder at this house was for this bird alone.
The voice of the man rang out again, pleadingly and desperate, as the woman fled from the living room. This was where the young couple would always be when the hummingbird was there, reclined on the sofa or overstuffed armchair, reading books or watching the news. The low sound of the hummingbird’s wings was always noticed, and their heads would turn together toward their daily guest. Today, the noise of their fighting frightened the hummingbird from the window, away from where either of them could see it.
But the hummingbird could not be completely scared away, and it held a hopeful vigil from a nearby tree, watching the neglected feeder carefully. A horrible silence smothered the house, ended finally by a car’s engine disappearing down the street. Sensing safety, the bird returned to the living room window to find half the family seated upright in the armchair, his head held in his hands. The quiet noise he made coincided with the shaking of his shoulders.
The woman was nowhere to be seen.
The hummingbird was forced to abandon the troubled household and find nourishment elsewhere. Refusing to partake of another feeder, as other hummingbirds casually would when their own feeder ran dry, the solitary hummingbird drank the nectar of flowers. This was a fleeting source of food, but because of this, they were not commonly visited by any other hummingbirds, allowing the hummingbird to retain its singularity. The hummingbird remained among the flowers for a time, regaining its strength and resilience, before returning to the feeder so lovingly entrenched in its past.
The man had not only cleaned the feeder, but replaced the old nectar. Though it had just drunk its fill, the hummingbird joyfully drank from the revived feeder until it was full to burst.
As the night grew quiet and soft, the sound of a car’s engine drifted back up the street. The hummingbird settled into its nest to sleep, undisturbed, until morning.